The first business day in February brought more bad news about the economy. Following disappointing data in January on employment growth and the housing market, the manufacturing sector kicked off February with more signs of slower economic growth.
This raised the question of whether the Federal Reserve mistimed its decision to go ahead with tapering its quantitative easing program in its recent meeting, rather than holding off until the economic signals are clearer.
Manufacturing sector is latest disappointment
On February 3, the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) released its Manufacturing Report on Business for January. This report, based on a survey of manufacturing supply managers, indicates that the manufacturing sector of the economy is still growing, but at a sharply slower pace than previously.
Signs of slowing growth appeared across a variety of indicators from the ISM survey. The overall Purchasing Manager's Index declined by 5.2 percentage points in January. Especially troubling for future months, the New Orders Index declined even more drastically, with a 13.2 percent drop. Production and employment also reported lower figures.Like the disappointing jobs and housing reports previously, the disappointing manufacturing report was blamed by some on bad weather. Although the weather has been unusually harsh this winter, it is important to remember that most economic data is seasonally adjusted. In short, weather is taken into account to some extent, so there may be deeper problems here than the polar vortex.